Skip to main content
Sign Up for Our NewsLetter

Eat Peeps:

September 10, 2012

“The Selby” Is in the House with His New Book & Exhibit “Edible Selby”

From artists and fashionistas to foodies, photographer Todd Selby documents the Creative Class

By Nancy Staab

Artist Todd Selby Opens his Exhibit at Jackson Fine Art, Atlanta, Sept. 13 with Food Trucks, A Book Signing, and… Free Fridge Magnets. LuxeCrush spoke to artist Todd Selby about food trends, travel and the subjects he would love to capture, on the eve of his Jackson Fine Art exhibit and new book publication.

Chef Danny Bowien of Mission Chinese Food; The Edible Selby book cover; Portrait of Todd Selby Chef Danny Bowien of Mission Chinese Food; The Edible Selby book cover; Portrait of Todd Selby

What happens when a famous artist/photographer from T Magazine shifts focus from happy hipsters and their habitats to the current, foodie-obsessed zeitgeist? The result: a compelling book and photo exhibit documenting food artisans at work and play around the world. Selby’s subjects range from the best restaurant in the world, the haute-foraging haven Noma in Copenhagen, to Rockaway’s taco shack/surf shop in Queens. LuxeCrush caught up with Todd Selby by phone for a brief chat about his new book and photography exhibit Edible Selby, his favorite places to travel and eat, and why he’s on the hunt for fresh new subjects…Lil’ Wayne and Ralph Lauren, take note!

Todd Selby may fancy himself an artist/photographer/blogger but what he really is, is a cultural anthropologist. With his lynx eye for revealing details, habitats and trends, Selby’s time-capsule portraits will illuminate future historians who want to try and grasp what our times were really like. Fashion, art, creative culture, decor and the current obsession with food all play into Selby’s fascinating portfolio. The L.A.-born and Berkely-educated Selby is an interiors, fashion, and portrait photographer and a painter. He has shot for New York Times’ T Magazine, British Vogue, Nylon and New York magazine as well as completed projects for Collette, ASOS and Nike. Domiciles were never so sexy, human and quirky than as illuminated by Selby. His shots capture model Helena Christensen hugging her knees on her kitchen counter, Katy Perry vamping with taxidermy, model Erin Wasson chilling in her bohemian lair, film provocateurs the Neistat Brothers stoking an indoor bonfire, and various nameless hipsters lounging, flipping pancakes and jumping on their slightly mussed beds.

His most recent project, Edible Selby, begam as a column documenting the food world, which he developed in collaboration with Sally Singer for T magazine. The column later evolved into a book and photo exhibit of the same name. In Edible Selby, the author casts a subjective but eclectic eye on the global food culture. His high-low subjects range from René Redzepi of Noma, Grant Achatz of Next, Fergus Henderson of  St. John and Danny Bowien of Mission Chinese Food, to a San Francisco sea-forager, a punk rock izakaya in Japan, and cover-boy Eric Werner’s restaurant-in-a-jungle in Tulum, Mexico. Each idosyncratic profile is accompanied by Selby’s signature watercolor illustrations; a handwritten Q& A filled out by the chef, food artisan, farmer, mixologist, forager or baker in question; and a recipe from each subject. These embellishments give the book an intimate, artisanal, hand-crafted feel.  

The book cover depicts Hakewood, a restaurant-in-a-jungle in Tulum, Mexico The book cover depicts Hakewood, a restaurant-in-a-jungle in Tulum, Mexico

Here is Sally Singer’s account of the quixotic origin of the Edible Selby column ( taken from her preface to the Edible Selby book):

“Todd Selby once asked me if I had ever seen the monkey-faced eel. I had not. He then whipped out his phone and showed me pictures of the creature, which looks exactly as it sounds and, in Todd’s eyes, somewhat like a young Stalin. He was off to hunt for it with an urban fisherman he had met, a northern Californian with a passion for consuming slimy creatures with despotic visages. I wished him well. Bon appé[Censored].

Could I have anticipated such culinary intrepidness when we began collaborating on the Edible Selby column in late 2010? Todd had come to me with the notion that local and sustainable food culture was simultaneously uniting and remapping the world of design, travel and style. He was going to tour the globe to meet agriculturalists and artisans, butchers and briners, cleavers and cookie monsters. He had heard of cheese makers in Japan and of a bento box guru in Oakland. I thought it a brilliant evolution of his interest in decorative arts and, for lack of a better term, the sociology of lifestyle.”

 Singer’s quote sums up the fascination, curiosity and intrepidness of Selby’s latest book and exhibit, Edible Selby.

 

Meet Todd Selby this Thursday Sept. 13 from 6-8PM for the opening of his photography exhibit “The Edible Selby.” He will also be signing approximately 100 copies of his new book “The Edible Selby,” out next month by Abrams. Local Food Trucks will complete the foodie scene and Todd says the book comes with a free fridge magnet designed by the artist. The exhibit will run through Nov. 17, 2012.

Jackson Fine Art, 3115 East Shadowlawn, Atlanta, GA, 30305. Phone: 404.233.3739 and  http://www.jacksonfineart.com  For more info on Todd Selby visit http://theselby.com/  You can pre-order the book at Amazon.com for $21.

 

LUXECRUSH EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH TODD SELBY

 

You made your name shooting mostly hipsters (artists, musicians, models and designers ranging from Helena Christensen and Michael Stipe to Karl Lagerfeld) in their natural habitats for your blog, exhibit and book “The Selby Is in Your Place.” How has your style evolved from this to shooting foodie types?

“I’ve always been really interested in people and characters. I watch a lot of documentary films and I like hanging out with crazy characters, which evolved into becoming interested in their homes. Later this evolved into an interest in food.”

 

I love the high-low range and geographical diversity of your book: you highlight everyone from master chef Grant Achatz and his conceptual new dining space Next in Chicago to a punk rock izakaya called Tatemichiya in Japan. Was this intentional?

“I never wanted to tick off boxes. The book represents my network and the people that I am connected to. It’s very natural, not forced.”

 

Chef Danny Bowien of Mission Chinese Food, San Francisco Chef Danny Bowien of Mission Chinese Food, San Francisco

Why all this obsession with food now?

“I think there’s a growing awareness of food. I grew up in the L.A. suburbs, never thinking about food, eating fast food, not contemplating where it came from. Gradually, myself and people in general started to think about it more, and about who’s making the food and where it comes from. It’s a natural evolution.”

 

You even visited the number one ranked restaurant in the world, Noma, for your book, as well as its Nordic Food Lab, both in Copenhagen. What can you tell us about this visit and shoot?

“You can learn so much from hanging out with people working on that level of excellence, whether a chef, an Olympic athlete, a great business man or an artist. It’s about thinking outside the box, and innovation, and challenging yourself every day. For example, Noma is not the most luxurious restaurant. This kind of fine dining is about a chef challenging you and challenging himself and rethinking things.”

 

You’ve traveled around the globe in the name of food. What are some of your own favorite food spots?

“The places in the book are my spots. I am gone 75% to 95% of the time. When I am traveling I always eat out. So when I am home in my own apartment, the ultimate luxury is cooking at home and hanging out with my girlfriend and friends.”

 

What do you make in the kitchen?

“Well I am more the assistant. I’m below a sous chef. I do the shopping, chopping and cleaning!”

 

You’ve covered hipsters in their homes and the foodie world. Is there any new subject you are itching to document?

“I am still photographing homes and I think there’s still a lot more to do with food—maybe an Edible Selby volume two?”

Selby self-portrait Selby self-portrait

 

Are there any food trends that you love or loathe?

"I think a backlash may be inevitable with this glamorization of the food world via the reality chef shows, etc. Being a chef is actually so much hard work. You are the first one in the door early in the morning and then the last person to leave. You work from 8AM to close and it’s a marathon not a sprint. I think a lot of new chefs entering cooking school now, thinking it’s glamorous, are in for a rude awakening!”

 

So, are you like the chefs that you documented in the way that you work?

“I’m the opposite. I am not meticulous. I don’t take that kind of time. I show up, I do the shoot and I go quickly to the next thing in terms of eating and traveling.”

 

What is your favorite place to travel to?

“Tokyo always inspires me and I go there two to three times a year. I am fascinated with Japan. Tokyo has such advanced food, art and culture.”

 

What is currently on your iPod?

“My favorite music and artist is Lil’ Wayne. I find him very inspirational. I’m a little obsessive about him.

 

Do you have a favorite blog or website?

“I use Google Reader and subscribe to about 200 blogs on Flipboard. They just pop up and I flip through them, all sorts of crazy, random stuff and the most random blogs catch my eye but I don’t know where they come from. I guess it’s the new way to consume media.”

 

Do you have an artistic inspiration or icon?

Actually, Lil’ Wayne is a huge inspiration to me. He was a big recording artist with the Hot Boyz and then it fell off. He started recording and putting his own music out for free on the Internet and built up a gigantic fan-base with no middleman. That was very inspiring to me when I was starting my own website and was trying to put things together and travel and go to photo shoots before that kind of thing was really done as a blogger. Before bloggers were celebrities.

 

You got to shoot Karl Lagerfeld in his floor-to-ceiling book-filled library. Any anecdotes you can share from that shoot?

“He’s unique. I asked Karl about books and his favorite ones and he replied cryptically, ‘Books, I have no books here…’”

 

Is there any subject that you would love to shoot that has eluded you?

“I’ve always been interested in Ralph Lauren. He’s an American icon and his lifestyle is really thought-out. His whole brand is really interesting to me.”

 

Meet Todd Selby this Thursday Sept. 13 from 6-8PM for the opening of his photography exhibit “The Edible Selby.” He will also be signing approximately 100 copies of his new book “The Edible Selby,” out next month by Abrams. Local Food Trucks will complete the foodie scene and Todd says the book comes with a free fridge magnet designed by the artist. The exhibit will run through Nov. 17, 2012.

Jackson Fine Art, 3115 East Shadowlawn, Atlanta, GA, 30305. Phone: 404.233.3739 and www.jacksonfineart.com  For more info on Todd Selby visit http://theselby.com/  You can pre-order the book at Amazon.com for $21.